Czech Republic: Romani figures respond to removal of director of Agency for Social Inclusion
News server Romea.cz has contacted Romani activists, experts and politicians for their reactions to the removal of Martin Šimáček from the post of director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. We asked them 1) what they think of his removal and 2) whether they know what the reasons for it are.
Cyril Koky, member, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs
1) I don't understand this move, Mr Šimáček is a recognized expert. The Agency has gradually earned its place and the director has done quite a bit of honest work to achieve that. Another 10 towns and villages just began working with the Agency on a coordinated approach. To remove the director at this time does not seem like a good step to me. I hope the minister knows what he's doing and has an adequate replacement candidate available, and I also hope that key staff members don't leave. Minister Dienstbier is directly responsible for the future development of the Agency and for all of its consequences.
2) I hope we will hear from the minister himself what his reasons are, no one ever asked us for our opinion about such a possibility.
Emil Voráč, director, Khamoro civic association, Chodov
The news of Mr Šimáček's removal has greatly surprised me, I am unable to say whether it's good news or not. Mr Šimáček, in any event, has recently earned a great deal of recognition from me personally, I consider him one of the greatest experts in social policy here. However, not everything has succeeded - I view, for example, the projects undertaken by the local partnerships with municipalities as unfortunate, because the municipalities have always overruled the local consultants and questions of integration and participation have not been answered. Instead of improving relations between the majority and Romani people, they are deteriorating, and new excluded areas are springing up that are funded by the Czech Government and the EU.
David Beňák, Vice-Chair, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs
1) This is the minister's decision and his prerogative.
2) Naturally I do not know the specific reasons, but I think we will all know them in about three weeks. I am not aware of any dissatisfaction with the Agency having been discussed at the Inter-ministerial Commission or that the Inter-ministerial Commission ever gave the minister any recommendations in this regard. The reasons are probably just internal matters.
Jan Šipoš, field social worker for the People in Need organization
I am completely surprised. I don't understand why he was removed, in my view he was a person who actually helped people. I have no idea why this has happened. I am rather upset about it and I would like to know why the minister removed him.
Čeněk Růžička, Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust
Naturally I am very surprised, I personally was under the impression that Mr Šimáček was in a very strong position. I also think he has been involved in this area a very long time and understands it very well. What was bad was that he didn't listen to us Roma, I told him that more than once. That's my only censure of him. Be that as it may, I appreciate him and I also appreciate Minister Jiří Dienstbier. They are both people who want to aid us, the Romani community. I have no idea why this has happened, everyone with whom I have spoken about it is surprised. My personal view of Mr Šimáček is that he is a person who could just as well go the European Union, to the highest level, to comment on and explain his topics of expertise there. One of the deficiencies of the Agency, of course, is that there are too few Romani people there. I have emphasized more than once that there is a need for the Agency to educate Romani people to participate in it. I thought Romani capacity might grow through the Agency, as a project, but that didn't happen.
Gejza Horváth, activist
I personally view this as something that should have been addressed long ago. In my opinion, an enormous amount of money has flowed into the Agency with nothing to show for it. The entire Agency has been set up wrong from the start - it should have worked directly with Romani people, but this way the Roma have just continued to fall further to the bottom of society. During Šimáček's tenure, social exclusion grew and so did the number of ghettos.
Karel Holomek, activist, journalist, politician
1) I appreciate Mr Šimáček as a successful person who understands this issue, but unfortunately he led the Agency into a bit of a dead end. The Agency, in my opinion, is not producing the kind of benefit that was anticipated, but that is not necessarily the fault of the director, because there are much broader circumstances to consider and Šimáček was in a difficult position.
2) The information that he has been removed is news to me and I naturally am very interested to know the reasons. As a member of the Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs, I have noticed during its recent sessions a certain criticism of the Agency in the sense that it does not reach out to Romani circles enough, that it is not managing to attract Romani people themselves enough into the programs in various municipalities. Jiří Dienstbier was aware of this debate and that could be the reason he removed Mr Šimáček.
Jozef Baláž, director, SP Černý most, s. r. o.
I am not surprised he has been removed. It's normal for top-level managers to be changed after a certain amount of time. Mr Šimáček has outlived his usefulness. Change is needed for the further development of the Agency. I am interested to learn who the minister will put in charge of the Agency next. I believe this change will bring new trends to the Agency and that Romani people living in socially excluded localities will be more willing to accept it.
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